How to Harness the Power of User-Generated Content

By Megan Dobransky

May 19, 2021

User-generated content (UGC) puts fans first, especially in the world of sports and sports mediaWe often hear great stories about players, coaches, and cultures of teams or leagues, but as people increasingly want to be part of those stories—or create their own—it’s important to give representation to the fanUGC helps put fans in front of the camera, and that’s key, because people don’t just want to be spoken tothey want to be engaged. 

So how can you best take advantage of UGCamplify the voices to your fans, and grow your audience 

Incorporate UGC in your full content strategy. 

A great place to start is to add UGC to your full content strategy. Create content that’s about the community or digital-first series that span multiple social channels, but also mix in UGC. 

“Brands and media publishers can lean into user-generated content and really insert themself into the conversation on TikTok in a very authentic way,” said Jenna McNaney, sports and gaming partnership lead at TikTok. 

Especially in a pandemic world with restrictions on in-person capacity, sports media can benefit from leaning into UGC. By adding social content into live streams and broadcasts, interactivity is accessible no matter where somebody is watching—on TikTok, YouTube, Twitch, or via live videos on your streaming apps. 

UGC is an important part of balanced content mix and helps you understand how to integrate the fan as part of your overall storytelling strategy. 

But integrate the right UGC. 

Fox Sports, for example, has done really well at selling branded content around live streams that are second-screen experiences to what you’re watching on TV. In the fall, they had Wendy’s as a partner, and they broadcast some of the big college football games like the Red River Shootout. Fox Sports live-streamed Vince Young responding to people’s tweets and answering questions, while also commenting on the game. So even though they were soliciting questions from everyone, they partnered with that one person to be able to reach a specific type of fan and draw those people in. 

Meet the community halfway. 

Don’t just repost UGC. You want to create original content and engage with the community in a very authentic way. An example of this is the NFL; a video went viral on a TikTok handle called the Football Bros earlier last year. Many media publishers started commenting on the video and the NFL caught wind of it. They ended up making a commercial that aired during the playoffs last year. This just speaks to the community and making sure that you’re aware of the conversation that’s happening around your brand, so that you can capitalize on it. 


@nfl#stitch with @..footballbros according to sources this video is the best vibe on tiktok rn 🙌🏈 #football♬ Just the Two of Us – Grover Washington, Jr.

Curate existing content. 

Likely, there’s already an influx of UGC being created about media publishers and sports teams. Any brand can create content, but the real opportunity lies in a brand’s ability to curate UGC 

Find opportunities to jump into the conversations where it’s appropriate, but if you’re also stewarding your fans into the types of content that are more aligned with your brand values, you can harness the power of your community for ways and reasons that uphold the values you stand for. 

Be authentic. 

UGC plays a huge role in buying decisions and how consumers engage with a brand’s content. Comment, engage with the community, and make it feel authentic. Don’t jump on a trend just because it’s a trend. Consumers can really sniff any sense of advertisement or inauthenticity from a mile away. It’s important for publishers and sports entities to make their content feel native to the social media platform they’re on. Content, communities, and behaviors on TikTok are very different from Facebook or YouTube. So, you have to not only know your audience, but also the platform, and interact with both authentically.  

Be a user. 

It’s really, really hard to create content that resonates on social media if you are not a user, because each platform and each community is unique. Use the apps, stay on top of any type of conversation happening around you, and communicate with the community in ways that meet their expectations.  

Measure. Measure. Measure.  

Start with engagement rate on a campaign with UGC, which can be your own content as well as the content that the fans are creating, and weigh that against other types of content. How does this perform relative to all of the other content you’re making? If your UGC campaigns perform better, then you know you should double down and create more. 

Another way to measure is the volume and the breadth of the social conversation. For example, when you think about a campaign on TikTok or if you’re live streaming and encouraging people to live-tweet along with that, look at how many different authors were generating content, how far the message reached, and the engagement on all of those different pieces of content.   

Bring sponsors into user-generated content. 

One of the best types of campaigns for an advertiser to run is with a sports team or a league, because it directly engages that built-in fanbase. Sponsors and advertisers will want to know the same type of metrics around volume and breadth of the conversation, so being able to quantify brand exposure, social lift, and engagement for the sponsor is important. Give that full context to your partners to let them know that it’s not just about delivering media, but it’s also about providing action and more attribution back to your brand and social presence.  

Also, when you’re clear about the benefits for fans to participate in these different campaigns or interactions, you get the best results. 

Combine social and streaming data for the win.  

Measuring both social media and streaming data together can give you amazing insights on acquisition and conversionFor example, something that starts on TikTok can drive people to a streaming platformthen being able to activate people with a live stream can get them to create TikTok content that you feature on the screen, which then gets them back into TikTok. Social and streaming are becoming even more closely intertwined as the digital world evolves, especially now that we’ve seen such a huge shift from linear television to digital streaming. Social is important to the backbone of that discussion, not to be overlooked. 

Even though we explored sports media and teams, most of this advice can be applied to all sorts of different brands and campaigns. To learn more about the power of user-generated content, check out this webinar: UGC and Giving Voice Through Social.